Acculturation of Syrian Refugees in Turkey as a Condition for Successful SLA

Acculturation of Syrian Refugees in Turkey as a Condition for Successful SLA

Esim Gürsoy (Uludağ University, Turkey) and Leyla Deniz Ertaşoğlu (Bursa Technical University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8128-4.ch002
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The literature is dominated by the studies on refugee studies since it is a current issue with great importance. In addition, this group of people leaving their homes due to serious human rights violations need to occupy a great space in the policy agendas and to be studied to enlighten policymakers and authorities in this fragile process of handling the issue of immigration. This necessitates higher education institutions involvement for a healthier and more systematic process of adaptation. Among the large group of refugees, Syrians—upon the break of the civil war in 2011—are the most visible group in Turkey. Witnessing the swiftly changing socio-economic dynamics in the world, Turkey is now home to a considerable number of Syrians. Furthermore, the intersection of Syrian refugees and the Turkish society has generated an intercultural space impacting on their SLA experiences, which is complicated by the process of adjustment concerning the two groups—those “uprooted” from their homes and the host society.
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In the last decades, there has been an increased mass mobility, immigration, and other means of intercultural encounters in many parts of the world. As a result of increased international migration, the population of a considerable number of societies has become culturally diverse. Although displacement is a constant phenomenon in history (Kleist, 2017), burgeoning interest in the immigration and its effects on immigrants and the receiving societies in particular has stimulated academic research and refugees have become the highly studied research area for these intergroup relations.

Refugees are defined as the people who flee their homeland because of serious human rights violations and seek safe harbors by crossing borders (Allen, Aina, & Hauff, 2006). The last few decades have witnessed considerable population displacements owing to the disintegration of social fabric in the neighboring countries. In this respect, the 2011 Syrian war is a turning point for the world, and especially for Turkey, by generating a serious refugee crisis and leaving everything in chaos. Due to the Syrian exodus, millions of people have fled their homes in pursuit of an asylum. Currently, according to the figures of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2017), there are 3,106, 932 registered Syrian refugees in Turkey.

Geneva Convention of 1951 states that refugee is a status accepted by the United Nations and equipped with some social and legal rights for those having left their homelands due to human rights violations. Nonetheless, all those forcibly displaced are not given the status of refugees, but they are regarded as asylum-seekers. Therefore, all Syrians seeking a safe home in Turkey are not called refugees. However, all participants in this study will be referred to as refugees with the exclusion of their legal status in Turkey because the reason behind the forced migration for Syrians in Turkey is the same except the rights given to them regarding their current status.

Following their move to Turkey as a haven, the challenges refugees encounter get more complicated by the crucial demand of adjustment to the unfamiliar environment (Kinzie & Jaranson, 2001). Among the considerable difficulties are finding a place to live, employment, and the access to social services (Dion, 2001). Those important and immediate tasks commonly make Syrians find ways to attach themselves to the dominant society. Considering all, a large number of Syrian refugees start learning the host society’s language they are exposed to, which is Turkish, as an attempt to adjust to this new environment. Likewise, Gürsoy and Ertaşoğlu’s (2018) study suggest that there is a positive correlation between Syrian refugees’ willingness to learn the target language and the degree of adaptation to the host society. Even though the language itself is not a prerequisite to start a new life indeed, as Munthe (2011) argues the success they show in learning the language to some extent displays the extent to which they are adjusted to the unfamiliar environment.

The intersection of Syrians “uprooted” from their home and Turkish society as the host environment has generated an intercultural space in which members of both groups develop their cultural boundaries, social identities, and interpersonal relationships. Considering these changing social dynamics, the fundamental issue of adaptation is of great importance not only for the refugees but also for the dominant group as migration builds acculturation processes for both migrants and the members of the receiving society. As one of the major contributors to the adaptation process, intercultural learning with a concern of helping learners develop an understanding of their own culture and language in relation to the target culture and language is a medium for finding a common ground for the negotiation of the two cultures (Liddicoat et al., 2003).

Owing to the changing trends and sociocultural fabric of societies, there have been a growing number of research studies done on the issue of the adaptation of those estranged from home for a range of reasons. Among those studies, refugees and the issue of immigration as a current topic have a significant role. In the same vein, the growing interaction and its effects on both cultures as a consequence of the intersection of different cultures owing to immigration is one of the fundamental constituents of modern life. Therefore, the successful adaptation of refugees and intercultural studies of acculturation are to be studied in the literature.

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